St. David’s South Austin Medical Center recently became the first hospital in Austin to acquire and use the NanoKnife® System for the surgical ablation of soft tissue in select patients with pancreatic, liver and bile duct cancer, as well as small bowel cancers.

The NanoKnife System is a new treatment option for patients with difficult-to-reach tumors, particularly those located near critical structures and surrounding major blood vessels, arteries and nerves. It is the first ablation system to use low-energy electrical pulses believed to permanently open pores in cell membranes, killing the cells in the targeted tissue without damaging the surrounding structures.

The NanoKnife System uses a rapid series of direct high-voltage, low-energy currents to create defects, or pores, in cell membranes, causing the cell to die. This process is known as irreversible electroporation. The electrical pulses are delivered through several needle-like probes placed into or around the targeted tissue under CT (computerized tomography) or ultrasound guidance. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia.

The NanoKnife System is a generation apart from other ablation modalities, which use extreme heat or cold, such as microwave energy, radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation. Unlike these ablative modalities, the NanoKnife System does not rely on extreme heat or cold; therefore, it poses little risk of injury to critical blood vessel structures.

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